Showing you are gay friendly

Research has shown that four out of five gay men and lesbians make a positive point of buying from a company that promotes itself as gay friendly. Many feel that mainstream companies ignore the gay market, always showing straight couples in advertising and promotion.

Look at your promotional literature and website to see if you can add a section for civil partnership ceremonies, preferably with images of gay couples. There are photographers who can supply images. Contact some on our website for advice and help.

Certainly check the wording of the literature you send out to gay couples and take out references to bride and groom. Also make sure your staff are briefed not to assume potential clients are straight when they ring for a brochure or appointment. For example, if a man rings up, don't ask for the bride's name to fill in your enquiry form.

When you are helping a gay or lesbian couple to plan their wedding, ask them what words they would like your master of ceremonies to use, for example, 'the happy couple' or using their first names. Don't be afraid to ask what might sound like stupid questions, for example, are both women's fathers giving speeches? It is better to be clear about expectations all round.

If you are worried about anything, admit it is your first civil partnership and ask the gay or lesbian couple to help you. As long as you are friendly and open to suggestions, it should work out. You can say, for example, if you are unsure about something, with our straight weddings we do x, y and z, what would you like?

Some couples will want traditional weddings, possibly with one dressed in tails and the other in a dress or both maybe both in dresses. Others will want to eschew all tradition, so just ask. Parents may not be as involved as they are with straight weddings as sadly some may not approve, so be sensitive to this possibility.

To ensure a superb day, make sure none of your staff or suppliers show any homophobia or awkwardness. Make sure you brief everyone, including temporary staff, telling them how important this day is and that your business's reputation rests on the happy couple feeling totally welcome. The last thing any gay couple wants is waitresses giggling or toastmasters stumbling over words.

For that extra little touch, you could provide gay related favours or decorations for cakes. Rainbows and pink triangles are often used as gay symbols, so you could incorporate these into your range of table decorations. Once again, check if this is what the couple want first.

Samantha Carroll of stationers, Handmade by 'Me', says: 'Dealing with a same sex ceremony is completely different. For a start, it's very common for both partners to be equally involved in the planning, rather than the traditional wedding where the bride does a lot more of the detailed decision-making than the groom.

'This can lead to more arguments at the beginning until ideas get thrashed out between the couple. On the other hand, once a decision is made, there's not so much going back on it, and same sex couples are much more interested in innovative designs and ideas - they tend to reject traditional formats in favour of light-hearted or very personal approaches.'

Co-founder of this site, Nicola Hill, also offers LGBT Diversity Training. If you want your lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers to feel valued, then book one of our seminars today. Click here to find out more about LGBT Diversity Training.